london marathon 2018: how massage can support runners

As spring finally emerges I can feel the pulse of the London Marathon 2018 as race day is less than 2 weeks away!

Most runners are tapering and mentally preparing for race day after the last long 18 – 21 mile training runs which, if UK based, are likely to have taken place on cold winter days and wet, frosty even snow covered roads and trails. I imagine you are feeling fit and light and strong in endurance; busy with final fundraising efforts; planning kit and nutrition and race number pick up at the Marathon Expo; feeling adrenaline and pre-race butterflies! and possibly some worry and nerves about preparedness and resilience of the body in enduring running 26.2 miles.

New runners, park runners, couch to 5K runners, trail/off road, ultra, 10K, half marathon runners and triathletes this post is for you too!

The human body’s musculoskeletal system is composed of muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, fascia and bones. Even if your body is healthy and uninjured, soft-tissues (muscle and connective tissues) may feel some symptoms of stiffness, tightness, fatigue, heaviness and restriction after your winter training.

A Remedial and Sports Massage with specific focus on soft-tissues that have been training hard supporting and stabilising the body through the dynamic and repeated movement pattern of the running stride may help to:

  • Prevent a previous musculoskeletal injury recurring.
  • Inhibit any new ‘niggles’ developing and progressing into a more serious injury that could hamper race day, continued running and races following the marathon and well-being.
  • Assist and optimise key physiological processes which may be slow or sluggish such as: lymphatic drainage, removal of toxins and by-products of exercise metabolism, enhance venous blood return of deoxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated and deliver fresh oxygen rich blood to key organs and tissues to allow them to work at their most efficient level.
  • Calm, rebalance and restore your mind-set.
  • Focus and set your intentions.

Clients and athletes often ask me: what is the difference between a Remedial and Sports Massage and other massage therapies?

In simple words, it is an individualised massage treatment applying specialised techniques to specific tissues and structures in the body with an overall aim of optimising performance, managing symptoms and preventing injury.

In a Remedial and Sports Massage tailored for runners, I blend warm-up, deep tissue and drainage techniques, myofascial release, trigger point therapy and assisted stretch to key tissues including:

  • Plantar Fascia i.e. connective tissue in the soles of the feet which function to absorb impact with each foot strike. If overused this can cause heel pain and Plantar Fasciitis.
  • Achilles Tendon i.e. the impact absorbing tendon connecting the heel (calcaneus) to the calf muscle group which comprises gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. If strained over time this can lead to Achilles Tendinopathy i.e. inflammation and degeneration of the tendon which if untreated can lead to tendon tear or rupture injury.
  • Tibialis Anterior muscle in the lower leg which if overused can experience painful ‘Shin Splints’ (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome).
  • Iliotibial band i.e. connective tissue which functions to absorb impact of every running stride and thus protects the knee joint and knee ligaments from sprain or rupture injuries. If overused it can trigger the presentation of ITB Friction Syndrome.
  • Calf, hamstring and quadriceps muscle groups in the legs which if overused can sustain Muscle Strain (grade 1 – 3) injuries.
  • Gluteal and Piriformis muscles in the buttock and Psoas (hip flexor) muscles which function to stabilise the hips and pelvis in dynamic movement and prevent knee valgus (collapse inward), knee injury and pain.
  • Tendons of the patella (knee), hamstrings and quadriceps (thigh). If irritated by overuse these can develop into tendinopathies which if unmanaged can progress into more sinister tendon tear or rupture injuries.
  • Quadratus lumborum i.e. deep tissue muscle of the lower back and Erector Spinae muscles which both function to stabilise and support the pelvis and spine in running posture and static (sitting) postures. If you work at a desk for example, or carry small children, tension in these muscles can cause nagging lower back pain.
  • And if there is time! I like to pay some attention to postural muscles in the upper back, neck and shoulders which commonly hold tension, and if unloved, can progress to reduced range of movement, neck pain, headache, even migraine.
  • The very last finishing touch is some soothing Indian Head Massage to the scalp and temples.

Remember if you need manipulation of joints – see an osteopath and if you do suspect an injury – see a physiotherapist for a complete assessment. Strength and conditioning coaches can also offer specific training advice related to injury prevention.

If you notice and signs of acute inflammation i.e. redness, heat, swelling pain, reduced function, please see a first aider, doctor or physio and in the first instance avoid further weight bearing, apply ice, compression and elevate if possible.

In terms of recovery following the marathon, any combination of yoga, especially yin or restorative yoga; Pilates; meditation; movement; physiotherapy; osteopathy; warm bath; steam/sauna; Epsom salts; magnesium and electrolyte supplements; (re)hydration; nutrition; rest and sleep; be really proud of your achievement and take this confidence and positivity into other areas of your life such as career and relationships.

Alice is offering a Marathon Package for a limited time which includes 3 x 60 minute or 90 minute treatments with a 15% discount (saving up £49.50!). To take advantage of this special offer please call Camden on 020 7483 3344.

Tailored massage treatments can also be designed for non-runners too including yogis, cyclists, gym/strength trainers, games players, performing artists, desk workers and anyone whose body needs a little boost to be at its best.

Alice works at triyoga Camden. To view her schedule and book an appointment, click here.

Alice is a soft tissue therapist (SMA Accredited) specialising in sport, remedial, and holistic therapy in clinical, consultancy and education settings since 2004, offering 12 years of experience in bodywork. She has worked with professional athletes at the PGA, Commonwealth Games 2014 and Rugby World Cup 2015, and shares a passion for sport and dance through training in classical ballet, distance running, triathlon and yoga. Parallel to clinical practice, Alice is a Lecturer in Sport Rehabilitation at St. Mary’s University Twickenham and has published original research in Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.

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